Optical Infrared Coordination Network for Astronomy

Horizon 2020

Call 2018B


Call for Proposals to be supported via the OPTICON H2020 Trans-National Access programme (Grant Reference Number 730890) in semester 2018B.

The call for observing time at night time telescopes supported by the OPTICON Trans-National Access programme will close on 28 February 2018 at 23.59UT exactly. The present contract has added two new robotic telescopes, a requirement to support time domain astronomy which is defined as a science category in its own right and some changes to the rules on applicant nationalities. Please review this note carefully, even if you have used the TNA programme before.

The semester is centred on September 2018 to February 2019, but there are small variations at some telescopes to accommodate their normal semesters and maximise scheduling flexibility. Note that technical support for the submission software is not provided out-of-hours and late applications will not be accepted, so please complete your application in plenty of time.

Proposals must meet certain EU and OPTICON rules for formal eligibility concerning team membership. Please pay attention to those rules or your proposal may be rejected without any scientific evaluation. The applicable rules are in article 16 of the grant agreement, and the relevant clause is that ‘The user group leader and the majority of the users must work in a country other than the country(ies) where the installation is located’. Since many national astronomical facilities are located in remote sites we add the restriction that 'The group leader and the majority of the users must work at institutions which are outside the country/ies which operate the telescope'. The interpretation of 'majority' is 50% + 1 user, and the user group leader is a member of the user group. In the case of applicants with significant national infrastructures the proposal must contain an explanation of why the project cannot be executed with comparable national facilities. Please also note there is a prohibition on projects which could be applied for by the PI using national mechanisms open to them to access non-national telescopes (for example via guaranteed time). Submission of similar proposals to national calls for the same instrument/project are strongly discouraged. The OPTICON CTAC asks technical support from each observatory and duplicated programmes will be severely disadvantaged. In such cases, please outline clearly why the proposals are different. Note that projects led by, or dominated by, non-EU persons are no longer prohibited but such projects are limited to 20% of the total allocations. In practice this means only a small number of such projects can be allocated and so such proposals must be exceptionally well justified. If in doubt, contact the OPTICON Project Scientist (details below) for clarification.

The maximum number of nights available at each facility is given in the table. It may be possible to move projects between telescopes to match scientific rating and demand. If your project can be done at more than one facility indicate in the technical case any alternate choices and note any technical issues such as changes in the time request which would result.

Please note the we adopt the following definitions and you should consider which facilities offer these options when defining your project:

Semester: This is the range of dates over which observations may be requested. It is not the same for each observatory.

Queue Scheduled: Weather and time dependent flexible scheduling to meet observing criteria specified by the user and scientific priority set by the observatory. Usually carried out by staff astronomers. Will not be attempted if specified conditions cannot be met and will not be carried over into future semesters.

Time Critical Observations: Predictable events which require special schedule constraints(eg. Planet transits, asteroid occultations, simultaneous observations with spacecraft)

Overrides: Priority observations which take precedence over scheduled observing due to nature of an expected but unpredictable event (eg. GRB, SN, Comet Outburst) and which are triggered by the PI of the proposal. Individual observatory policies may limit the number and frequencies of such triggers. Please check the observatory webpages for details noting that sometimes this mode is referred to by individual observatories as a Target of Opportunity (ToO).

Targets of Opportunity: Completely unexpected and unpredictable event of very high interest resulting from a specific discovery (eg Whole new class of object discovered in a survey, radio signal from ES planet, discovery of object predicted to impact Earth). Almost by definition observing time for such projects cannot be allocated in advance and would normally be allocated via director’s discretionary time. Accordingly this flag has been removed from the proposal form. If you plan to request time for such eventualities, as distinct from the reasonably predictable overrides as defined above, please contact the OPTICON Project Scientist (details below) first to discuss options and possible triggering scenarios on a case by case basis.

Monitoring: Observations which require a regular cadence (eg SN decay, giant planet weather, comet activity with heliocentric distance) but which are not highly date/time specific. May be executed in ‘service mode’ to minimise PI travel.

Service Mode: Observations which are carried out by a local astronomer as part of a classically scheduled operations without flexibility for specific observing constraints. Also known as ‘Delegated visitor mode’. The PI is not expected to provide an observer.

Robotic: Automated telescope or network of telescopes using software to schedule and execute observations according to observatory schedule, weather and priority algorithms without direct human intervention on a nightly basis. Essentially automated queue scheduling without real-time human discretion.

Nights available at each Facility in semester 2018B
Facility Nights/hours available Semester Queue Scheduled Time critical observations (e.g. transits) Overrides allowed? Monitoring possible?
Isaac Newton Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 10 1 Aug - 31 Jan No Yes Possibly Only in scheduled discretionary nights

Notes: Include required instrument configuration information in the technical case. Given the ongoing changes in the instrument suite at ING please check this page:


WFC and IDS are available.

Overrides can only be made on a limited number of nights, mostly OPTICON allocated and discretionary nights.

William Herschel Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 6 1 Aug - 31 Jan Only in scheduled service nights Yes Possibly Only in scheduled service nights

Notes: Include required instrument configuration information in the technical case. Wide-field imaging is now available at the WHT via visiting instrument PAUCam. Given the ongoing changes in the instrument suite at ING please check this page:


Whole semester: ISIS, LIRIS, ACAM, Visitor instruments. AF2 not offered.

Overrides can only be made on a limited number of nights, mostly OPTICON allocated, and service/discretionary nights.

Nordic Optical Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 25 1 Oct - 31 March Only in scheduled service nights Yes Yes Yes

Notes: A new fibre bundle, using octagonal fiber, was installed in FIES. This new bundle is expected to improve the radial-velocity stability. Tests has shown the stability with the high-resolution fiber to be ~2 m/s on time-scales of a day, and below ~4 m/s on longer time-scales. Unfortunately, the medium-resolution fiber is not working at the moment, but we expect to remedy this issues well before the start of semester 2018A. More extensive tests are on-going.

The SOFIN high-resolution Echelle spectrograph is again available. It only is offered to do circular spectro-polarimetry with the medium-resolution (R~80,000) camera. SOFIN is not a common-user instrument: only limited support is provided.

For guidance on the various modes see http://www.not.iac.es/observing/too

Liverpool Telescope (ORM, La Palma) 50 Hours 1 July - 28 Feb Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours. LOTUS and RINGO 3 are not available.
Telescopio Nazionale Galileo (ORM, La Palma) 10 Nights 1 Oct - 31 March   Yes Yes Possible with severe limitations

Notes: GIARPS (simultaneous use of HARPS-N and GIANO) SHARED RISK OFFER. Please provide a backup program with one instrument only (HARPS-N or GIANO-B) in case the GIARPS configuration is not available. Service and visitor modes, not queuing. Service time is scheduled on fixed nights so, e.g., seeing requirements do not apply.

Fractional nights can be requested in 1 hour blocks, assume 9hr per night.

CAHA 2.2m (Calar Alto) 5 1 July -31 Dec Yes Yes No Yes
Notes: Only CAFOS in Service mode is offered this semester.
CAHA 3.5m (Calar Alto) 10 1 July - 31 Dec Yes Yes* No Yes*
Notes: *only possible with PMAS and CARMENES
Proposals applying for CARMENES should consider that the main science case of the CARMENES Guaranteed Time Observations is the detection, follow-up and characterization of planets around M dwarfs with radial velocities. The agreement between CAHA and the CARMENES consortium protects this science case. Principal investigators of proposals which might overlap with this science case are encouraged to contact the CARMENES consortium for collaboration.

PMAS/CARMENES O2000/LAICA are available.

Anglo-Australian Telescope. (Siding Spring) 10 1 Aug - 31 Jan No Yes Yes Yes

Notes: From 1 July 2018, the AAO will no longer operate the AAT. Instead, AAT operations will be managed and funded through a consortium of Australian universities, led by the Australian National University (ANU). The rights and obligations of the AAO under the contract with your organisation will transfer (novate) to the new ANU-led consortium by legislation that will be passed through the Australian Federal Parliament. The AAO will work with the ANU-led consortium to ensure a smooth transition of AAT operations and minimise any impact on the arrangements. Additionally, we anticipate minimal change to the standard operation procedures for AAT observations following the transition. The one exception will be that, from July, successful applicants will have more limited expert assistance on site.

Instrument upgrades and commissioning are ongoing for multiple instruments; please refer to the AAO instrument status page for current status and availability. Proposers must carefully review the Important information for applicants on this page after February 15th when the normal AAT Call for Proposals is released.

Observatoire de Haut Provence 1.93m 10 1 Sept - 28 Feb No Yes No Yes
Notes: Note that all 2018B applications to OHP from non-French astronomers must be made via OPTICON and not via the national French process
Telescope Bernard Lyot (Pic du Midi) 7 1 Sept - 28 Feb based on TAC priority Yes Possible (min 24hr notice) Yes
Notes: Note that all 2018B applications to TBL from non-French astronomers must be made via OPTICON and not via the national French process
Canada France Hawaii Telescope (Mauna Kea) 2 1 Aug - 31 Jan Yes Possible for high priority proposals Yes Yes subject to instrument availability
Notes: NO visitor mode. Queue scheduled only.
Please pay particular attention to overheads. MegaCam delivers 5.5hrs/night, WIRCAM 5hr/night, Espadons 7.5 hrs/night and SITELLE 6.5 hours per night. Useful information on heavily subscribed RA ranges and other scheduling factors etc can be found here.
MPG/ESO 2.2 (La Silla) 10* (TBC) 1 Oct - 31 March No Yes No Only by special arrangement on a case by case basis.
Notes: OPTICON proposals for FEROS and WIFI instruments only. GROND is not available for OPTICON proposals.

*Please consult the project scientist, John Davies - , before starting any application to this telescope as visiting observers will need to show they have adequate institutional insurance.

Only 80% of each night is available. Programmes may be affected by a GRB override programme although time lost will be reimbursed in service mode.

Carlos Sanchez Telescope (Obs del Teide, Tenerife) 14 1 Sept - 28 Feb Yes Yes No Yes
Notes: Visitor, service or remote oberving modes available.

CAIN (IR Camera), FASTCAM (lucky imaging in the optical) and WIDE FASTCAM (8x8 arcmin FoV). Remote observing now possible.

Aristarchos Telescope (Helmos Observatory, Greece) 12 1 July - 31 Oct Welcome Yes Possible but difficult Possible but difficult
Notes: The direct imaging CCD camera will be available for this call.
Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) 150 (hours) 1 Jun - 30 Nov Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours.

The OPTICON contract is for time on the LCO 1m network. Time on the 2m network may be requested but will be subject to a further internal negotiation with LCO if such projects are approved by the OPTICON TAC.

The new NRES high resolution spectrograph will be available.

REM (La Silla, Chile) 500 (hours) 1 Oct - 31 March Yes Yes Yes Yes
Notes: Robotic. Request in hours. Observations are robotically scheduled, but time constraints and repetition rates can be inserted. Please see www.rem.inaf.it

REM can observe simultaneously in the bands g, r, i, z, (visible) plus one infrared chosen among (z', J, H, Ks).

Unless noted above, any instrument available to national users of an observatory may be requested. Please consult each observatory web-page for instrument details and policies.

Requests for multiple telescopes for the same scientific project must be included in a single proposal form. Request for projects with different scientific objectives should be made on separate proposal forms.

Please do not request long term status. Individual telescopes commit time to the observing pool on a semester by semester basis. We cannot assign 'long term' status as the TAC do not know for certain if sufficient nights on your telescope of choice will be available in future semesters. So please make a single semester proposal and make a note in the text that you will be re-applying in the future with a similar project.

Since the OPTICON Trans-National Access programme is limited by the EC funds available, it is possible that not all of these nights will be allocated at every facility.

Projects must be scientifically competitive and will be ranked based on scientific merit and technical feasibility by a special OPTICON international time allocation committee. OPTICON will attempt to schedule nights allocated by this committee subject to practical constraints on telescope and instrument availability. Due regard will be given to EC criteria regarding new users and users without similar national infrastructures. The oversubscription factor varies considerably between facilities and semesters but, as a guide, on average ~25% of proposals in recent rounds have been awarded time.

OPTICON facility users must ensure that all efforts are made to publish any resulting scientific publications, including data, in accordance with H2020 Open Access Guidelines as stipulated in Article 29 of the Grant Agreement.

Successful proposers will receive travel funds as necessary for them to take up the observing time. This will normally be for a single observer. If travel support for more than one observer is required for clearly demonstrated scientific reasons it will be necessary to get confirmation from the Project Scientist (details below). Please also see the section on Trans-National Access on our Rules for Travel page.

For downstream processing by the individual observatories, successful proposers may be required to complete and submit either Phase 1 (application forms) or Phase 2 (detailed observing request) forms. In this situation the science case will not be re-evaluated but the forms will be used to extract practical information required for the observatory proposal reporting and scheduling databases.

Facilities not in this list are not offering OPTICON supported observing in this semester, even though they may have done so in the past and may do in the future. Some facilities have policies which allow international users to apply via their regular national proposal process or to specific international time which is not part of the OPTICON pool. Proposals made to and approved via non-OPTICON mechanisms will not qualify for OPTICON travel grant support. Note that the results of the OPTICON TAC review will be communicated to the national TACs to avoid undesirable duplication.

The proposal software, an OPTICON variant of the NORTHSTAR system already in use at several observatories, is available at the following url: http://proposal.astro-opticon.org. You are required to register for account (only minimal information is required) and you can then create, share and complete your proposal on-line. Note that each Northstar system is unique, you cannot use a Northstar account created for another TAC process (e.g. a RADIONET account). Download the latex .cls file and the sample 'case for support' tex file. These will provide a template which you should use and contains a summary of what information is suggested for the scientific case. Use this rather than creating your own latex file from scratch. Large target lists can be uploaded as a suitably formatted file. In the case of large projects, or those with a large list of possible targets from which only a subset will be observed, upload only a sample of representative targets.

For general questions about the call, registering with NORTHSTAR and policies, rules and procedures look in our FAQ page and if this does not help you then contact the Project Scientist (details below).

For specific practical information about telescopes/instruments, please contact the local observatory team directly.

Good luck

John Davies

OPTICON Project Scientist